September 26, 2003

ERP KIM Special Report

STABLE SERBIA-MONTENEGRO A KEY FACTOR IN KEEPING BALKAN ISLAMISTS UNDER CONTROL

ERP KIM Info-service is presenting two independent reports on the new role of Serbia-Montenegro in the geopolitical situation after the September 11th and the war in Iraq. The views expressed in these texts reflect positions of the authors and do not neccessarily represent views of the ERP KIM Info-Service.

Contents:

STABLE SERBIA-MONTENEGRO A KEY FACTOR IN KEEPING ISLAMISTS UNDER CONTROL, M. DJORDJEVIC (Belgrade)

Recent developments after the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo have demonstrated that the Islamist cause cannot be easily dismissed, particularly in the present grave economic and political crisis plaguing most of the Balkans, and that it represents a prime breeding ground for extremist Islamist cells.

SPECIAL REPORT, STRATFOR INSTITUTE (U.S): BALKAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS
The paradox is this. Should the Islamist forces in Bosnia, Kosovo or other parts of the region move aggressively, the United States does not have sufficient forces in either place, and the willingness of European governments to act decisively is, at least in our minds, questionable. Their definition of "decisive action" may differ from that of the United States. The only power that has an interest in controlling Islamic actions in the region is, interestingly, Serbia. Different time, different regime, but same national interests. What could happen is that, in the end, the United States must rely on the Serbs to deal with the current war.



SERBIA-MONTENEGRO - A KEY GEOSTRATEGIC
 POSITION IN SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE

 

STABLE SERBIA-MONTENEGRO - A KEY FACTOR IN KEEPING BALKAN ISLAMISTS UNDER CONTROL

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Recent developments after the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo have demonstrated that the Islamist cause cannot be easily dismissed, particularly in the present grave economic and political crisis plaguing most of the Balkans, and that it represents a prime breeding ground for extremist Islamist cells....

In the new political and security situation in the world marked by the September 11, 2001 attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and the latest war in Iraq, the Balkans will soon re-emerge as a strategic battleground in preventing Islamist retaliation on the Western world. With its traditionally secular Moslem communities, which were not very familiar with Wahabbi ideas, only a few years ago the problem of the emergence of predominantly Moslem states in this part of Europe did not seem to pose a serious threat. This was even viewed as a convenient tool to undermining the policies of Slobodan Milosevic and strengthening the Western presence in the Balkans.  However, recent developments after the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo have demonstrated that the Islamist cause cannot be easily dismissed, particularly in the present grave economic and political crisis plaguing most of the Balkans, and that it represents a prime breeding ground for extremist Islamist cells. It has been proven elsewhere that organized crime and mafia inevitably forge links with terrorists and thus represent their natural allies. Economically and politically unstable countries would hardly be able to cope with such a problem. Therefore, the existence of stronger, stable democratic and multiethnic countries is the only guarantee that such elements will not prevail and use the Balkans as a spring board towards Western Europe.

Even a superficial glance at the map of Southeastern Europe makes it very clear why the Balkans appears so attractive to terrorists. Predominantly Moslem-inhabited territories including eastern Macedonia, southern Serbia (Kosovo, the Presevo Valley and the so-called Sanjak) are geographically connected to Bosnia. This "green transversal" runs through the territory of Serbia and Montenegro separating these two Republics of the Union. The eventual independence of Montenegro and Kosovo will automatically affect the fragile balance established in Bosnia and Macedonia, which still remain ethnically divided countries despite the presence of international troops. The map of the Balkans will become even more complicated and the resulting territorial fragmentation will leave this part of Europe in a security and economic limbo. Inherently unstable Kosovo Province in particular will become a focal point for terrorists together with North Albania, which are both under control of Moslem Albanian clans and mafia. Many Western journalists have already called this part of Serbia and Albania "the most lawless part of Europe". Even the  presence of international peacekeepers will prove inefficient because no one will be able to cope with the local extremists as well as those who live in these territories themselves. Additionally, Western countries will be unable to keep their forces in the Balkans indefinitely. Therefore, preservation of the state borders of multiethnic and democratic Serbia-Montenegro with Kosovo as a special autonomous region remains the only way to prevent further fragmentation of the Balkans and keep the "green transversal" under control. In order to achieve such a settlement between Belgrade and Pristina, it will be necessary to politically neutralize radical Albanian leaders in Kosovo and promote a new political elite that will reach compromise with Belgrade and co-operate in anti-terrorist operations with NATO led troops. Common interests and integration within new post-Milosevic Serbia and Montenegro will strengthen Kosovo's capacities to resist the Islamists and mafia and keep up the pace with economic integration in the region. However, if Kosovo leaders continue with their blatantly hostile attitude towards Serbs and persist in provoking incidents in Macedonia, Montenegro and the Presevo Valley, Kosovo will remain politically isolated and soon become the prey of its own extremists who need independence and ethnically compact state to secure their illegal activities behind the smokescreen of "democratic" institutions.

In this complex geostrategic situation, Serbia-Montenegro, with its central position in the Balkans, will naturally become a key ally of the West in preventing the Islamists from carrying out their operations in Europe. The country that only a few years ago was seen as a major security threat in the area will thus be given a new chance to make its contribution to the preservation of the world peace and stability. For this new role, the country would need ample assistance from the West and most of all political support in preserving its sovereignty in Kosovo and Montenegro.

Marko Djordjevic
Independent analyst, Belgrade

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SPECIAL REPORT

STRATFOR (USA) THE BALKAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS

The paradox is this. Should the Islamist forces in Bosnia, Kosovo or other parts of the region move aggressively, the United States does not have sufficient forces in either place, and the willingness of European governments to act decisively is, at least in our minds, questionable. Their definition of "decisive action" may differ from that of the United States. The only power that has an interest in controlling Islamic actions in the region is, interestingly, Serbia. Different time, different regime, but same national interests. What could happen is that, in the end, the United States must rely on the Serbs to deal with the current war.

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http://www.stratfor.com/corporate/index.neo?page=center&storyId=222655

STRATFOR (USA)
The Balkan Theater of Operations

September 22, 2003

Summary

There are three dimensions to the U.S. war against the Islamist world: within the United States, within Islamic countries and along the periphery of the Islamic world. The Balkans has been one of the neglected theaters of conflict along this periphery. The recent visit of U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers focuses our attention on this area.

Analysis

The U.S.-Islamist war has three dimensions. There is the covert duel within the United States, between U.S. security forces and what are assumed to be al Qaeda operatives present in the country. There is a second dimension within Muslim countries, where Islamist forces struggle against the current governments. This includes theaters where U.S. forces are overtly and covertly involved, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. In the third dimension, conflict exists along the frontiers of the Islamic world, where Muslims and non-Muslims engage in active combat.

These frontier conflicts divide into a number of separate theaters of operation. There is, of course, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which Jews confront Muslims. There is the conflict in Kashmir between Hindu India and Islamists. There is Chechnya, where Muslims confront Orthodox Christian Russians, and the Philippines, where Catholics confront Muslims. There is a range of smaller theaters in Africa. However it is divided, it is useful to think of three dimensions to the war, which is occurring in various theaters.

One theater of operations to which our attention has been drawn is the Balkans. U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers visited the region last week, reminding us not only that U.S. troops are still deployed there, but also that the Balkans is one of the points where the Islamic world interfaces with the rest of the globe. It also reminds us of a critical antecedent of the current war and of an important fact that has been forgotten: The first major conflict between the Islamic world and its surroundings took place in the Balkans, and the United States intervened in that war on the side of the Muslims.

The Balkans historically had been unstable, because the region was where three worlds -- the Muslim, the Catholic and the Orthodox Christian -- interfaced. This was far from the only fault line: Ethnicity, dynastic lines and clan conflict created a constantly shifting constellation of relationships. Geography also played a part, since the rugged hills of the Balkans allowed various groups to retain their identities in the face of occupations by Romans, Turks and Germans.

As in Afghanistan and other areas of rugged terrain and long history, it was possible to suppress but not erase the distinctions that existed. The distinctions always led to conflict, but -- again, as with most mountainous regions -- resources were scarce and war was a means toward building wealth. Relative peace occurred only when there was an external force so threatening to everyone in the region that solidarity was the only thing that made sense -- or when the region was occupied by a power so overwhelming or ruthless that it made sense to bide one's time. Thus, during the Cold War, there was a consensus that becoming a Soviet satellite was unacceptable, and therefore Tito was able to impose a stasis on the region. Alternatively, effective occupation by the Turks in the 18th century did not erase conflict, but suppressed it somewhat.

When the Cold War ended, the Soviet threat disappeared, as did the legitimacy of Marxism. When the pressure released, the artificial unity of the South Slavs, or Yugoslavia, evaporated. It was very much as if a spring, tightly coiled, exploded. The result was not a civil war, but a series of national wars between nations whose autonomy had been suppressed by a multinational state. Added to this was a state that had never been part of Yugoslavia, but which nevertheless was intimately involved and affected by its policies: Albania. This was not only because it was a small, vulnerable country surrounded by a much larger and stronger state, but also because history had left many Albanians on the wrong side of the border.

A three-way war broke out that roughly, though not perfectly, paralleled religious distinctions. Catholic Croatia, Orthodox Christian Serbia, and Muslim Bosnia -- and later Albania -- engaged in a complex war from which Macedonia and Slovenia managed to hold themselves aloof. The slaughter and inhumanity on all sides was striking. As would be expected, the most powerful entity, Serbia, was by definition able to inflict the greatest atrocities, but only weakness made the other parties more virtuous. The war was seen by all sides as an opportunity to rectify centuries of legitimate grievances, so complex and arcane that no outsider could truly understand the issues and certainly could never grasp the passions.

The United States and the West viewed this conflict through the prism of the post-Cold War world. In their views, there were no fundamental issues separating the world's serious powers. They all wanted the same thing -- economic growth and political stability. During Desert Storm, the world had united to stop a rogue state, Iraq, that had threatened both objectives. Other peacekeeping operations followed the same line -- a united world administering a simple world, dealing with occasional rogue nations.

Yugoslavia -- or more precisely, the Serbian remnant of that entity -- was ranked with Iraq, North Korea, Libya and other isolated states that threatened regional stability and had to be stopped before they became regional hegemons that could disrupt economic development. The further assumption was that the citizens of these nations, Serbia included, would welcome the fall of the repressive regimes.

Therefore, the American analysis of the Balkans ran thus: There was no systemic problem in the Balkans, but rather, a problem rooted in a regime that would not follow international norms of behavior. That nation was in the process of committing genocide and had to be stopped. The most desired means of changing Serbian behavior was negotiation, backed by the threat of force and followed by peacekeeping troops. That was the model followed in Bosnia with the Dayton Accords, albeit after the bloodbaths had already taken place. In the Kosovo model, direct force was applied to Serbia in the form of an air campaign that targeted the entire country, followed by a political settlement, followed by peacekeeping troops.

There have been many conspiracy theories about why the United States did what it did, but the truth is simpler and in some ways more amazing. The United States did not see the Balkans question as directly affecting any immediate American geopolitical interest. Rather, the situation there was of concern because if the disruption was not suppressed, other regions might destabilize. The United States had an interest in global stability as the foundation for global economic growth: A tear in the fabric anywhere was seen as potentially unraveling things elsewhere. Moreover, if the West could not suppress chaos in Europe itself, its ability to control chaos elsewhere would be compromised.

Nothing that went on in the Balkans was seen as having a direct effect on the United States. The United States had no systemic enemies; its task was to police outbreaks of hooliganism so that the peace Washington now saw as permanent and desirable would not be compromised. Nothing in the Balkan situation itself was of direct significance to the United States.

The United States did not see itself as intervening on behalf of anyone. It saw itself and its coalition partners as neutral, indifferent to the local issues, acting as umpires to make certain that the contestants remained within the bounds of humanity and decency. To the extent to which U.S. forces were intervening on anyone's side, it was the side of the victim. Since the victim was, by definition, the weaker party, Washington was intervening against the stronger power -- Serbia -- and in favor of the weaker powers, Bosnia and Albania.

One of the conceits of peacekeepers is the belief in their neutrality. Whatever their intentions, it is impossible to intrude into a complex political and military situation without affecting the outcome. In affecting the outcome, of course, someone wins and someone loses. Therefore, on the ground, the intervention is always seen as benefiting someone and hurting someone else. This is the disconnect between the peacekeeper and the actors on the ground. The peacekeeper might well intend to be neutral, but he is always experienced as highly partisan. In that unintended partisanship lies the complexity of peacekeeping.

In this case, the intervention was seen as being on behalf of Muslims. The United States could argue that it was on behalf of peace and justice, but none of the combatants doubted for a moment that the guns were pointing at the Serbs, not the Muslims. What the region could not understand was why the United States was intervening on behalf of the Muslims. Interesting theories circulated -- that the United States was intervening on behalf of the Muslims because the Saudis had offered to reduce the price of oil; that the intervention was designed to buy the Israelis room for maneuver against the Palestinians; that the intervention was designed to support Chechen Muslims against the Russians.

The lack of an immediate geopolitical interest generated fascinating theories, but the truly important reason was missed: Washington failed to understand the world it was facing. Then-President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and National Security Adviser Sandy Berger made a profoundly simple miscalculation. They assumed that there were no longer any major threats to the United States, and that the primary issue was dealing with rogue states. If that was the case, it didn't matter who the United States helped or hurt so long as it contained the rogues. They did not anticipate either Sept. 11 or the complex confrontation that was looming between the Islamists and the United States. Many others missed this event, so they were hardly alone, but the fact was that they shaped their intervention without much reference to the three dimensions we began by discussing.

Which meant that the United States intervened on behalf of the Islamic forces. In retrospect, it might have been assumed that the intervention would have bought the United States some credibility in the Islamic world. It has not, essentially because it in no way addressed the real interests of al Qaeda, and because the Clinton administration never effectively linked the intervention to a strategic demarche in the Islamic world. The administration's mindset -- the idea that the United States was intervening, not on behalf of Islamic forces, but on behalf of stability -- made it impossible for the government to exploit the intervention effectively. They would have had to admit the obvious -- that it was an intervention on behalf of Islam -- and that was something the Clinton administration couldn't do.

The problem now is threefold. First, Islamist elements present in both Albania and Bosnia are in a position both to use the region as a transit point and to hit U.S. troops in both areas. Second, the peacekeeping forces deployed in both countries are not actively involved in the war on al Qaeda, but are incidental to whatever operations are taking place in the Balkans. Finally, the region is open to exploitation by al Qaeda at a time and place of its choosing -- and there are insufficient U.S. forces in country to be effective, but too many to be safe.

The Balkan theater of operations has not been quiet. Incidents are constant but not widely reported. Moreover, there are ample indications that Islamist forces are present and able to carry out operations. U.S. covert forces have operated in the region as well, searching for al Qaeda. Nevertheless, the region could explode in Washington's face at any time. Neither the Bosnian nor Albanian governments want this to happen, but al Qaeda would not necessarily consult them.

The paradox is this. Should the Islamist forces in Bosnia, Kosovo or other parts of the region move aggressively, the United States does not have sufficient forces in either place, and the willingness of European governments to act decisively is, at least in our minds, questionable. Their definition of "decisive action" may differ from that of the United States. The only power that has an interest in controlling Islamic actions in the region is, interestingly, Serbia. Different time, different regime, but same national interests. What could happen is that, in the end, the United States must rely on the Serbs to deal with the current war.

All in all, a cautionary tale about the complexity of geopolitics.

analysis@stratfor.com

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